MINUTES OF THE
THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION
AT 10:10AM IN ROOM 106
Present: The Speaker
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
In Attendance: Mr T Logue, Mr R Good, Mr H Widdis, Ms L Gordon, Ms S McClelland, Mr M Rickard, Ms C Foster.
The Speaker welcomed members to the meeting to discuss the impact of Thursday 6 March’s decision to disallow filming at Parliament Buildings.
EVENTS AT PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mr Moutray explained the reasons for his proposal in relation to filming and still photography which was carried at the previous Commission meeting on Thursday 6 March adding that, in light of restrictions this would impose on Assembly Business, as highlighted in Mr Logue’s email of Friday 7 March he accepted that an amendment may be required, or certain approvals provided.
Mr Moutray raised a number of questions in relation to the event held on the previous Friday , namely:
- There were large numbers of unsupervised visitors in Sinn Fein’s party room - did this contravene current guidance and, in particular, health and safety requirements?
- Why was filming allowed in the room despite the Commission’s ruling?
- Who was responsible for policing/supervising the event?
Officials agreed to provide a written response to Mr Moutray’s questions.
The Speaker invited comments from Commission members
Mr Neeson expressed concern that the Commission was in danger of being brought into disrepute. He also felt that the ruling potentially undermined the Speaker’s responsibility outlined in Standing Orders.
Ms Gordon referred to Standing Order 69.1 which is entitled ‘News Media’ and states inter alia, that:
“notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in Standing Orders (see Visitors), unless otherwise ordered, members of the news media shall be admitted under supervision only to such places in the Assembly building and its precincts as may be specified by the Speaker.”
Mr Widdis offered some interpretation of this Order for Commission members. It could not directly affect the power of the Commission to make decisions in relation to the use of the Parliament Buildings. It provided the Speaker with power in relation to the news media only, and not events or photography generally. That power and discretion was ‘layered over’ the power of the Commission.
Mr Logue tabled a paper which asked the Commission to approve in advance, the following:
- Recording and broadcasting of plenary and committee business;
- Broadcasting from within the Press suite, including Stormont live;
- Taking of photographs for security passes;
- Filming of a meeting of the Youth Parliament in the Senate Chamber (today); and
- CCTV footage.
Mr Maginness expressed his disappointment at the Commission’s rash judgement to restrict broadcasting and referred to the consequences of the decision. He stated his preference for examining and developing an overall policy and asked Members to rescind the previous motion.
Mr Butler affirmed many of the points raised by Mr Maginness and explained that the Commission’s decision had been counter-productive to building/developing a ‘Good Relations Strategy’. He felt that the Commission had been poorly advised by officials with regard to introducing the original paper on “politically sensitive events” and reflected his wish that the former decision be overturned.
Rev Coulter explained that he had received numerous reports from colleagues who were irate with the repeated broadcasting of the event on Friday. He articulated his Party view that the interim criteria for events, was accepted and that the decision about broadcasting needed re-visited.
The Speaker thanked everyone for their comments and asked for consensus on Mr Logue’s interim proposal which would allow Assembly business to be broadcast from today.
It was agreed that a comprehensive paper on the issue of filming and photography would be brought to a future Commission meeting and it was further reiterated that proposals for the establishment of a Good Relations Working Group should be brought forward.
Mr Moutray expressed his disappointment that Members had not commented on Friday’s event.
Mr Butler proposed that ‘the policy and decision made at the last Commission meeting in relation to filming and photography be rescinded’. Mr Maginness seconded this proposal.
A vote was taken with the following result:
2 for (43 votes)
2 against (54 votes)
The proposal fell.
Mr Moutray proposed that Mr Logue’s paper be accepted.
A vote was taken with the following result:
2 for (54 votes)
2 against (43 votes)
This proposal was carried.
DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission will take place on Thurs 13 March 2008 at 2:00 pm in room 106.
The meeting ended at 10:30 am